Jon Walters energised by fresh challenge at Burnley
Republic of Ireland striker secured move from Stoke to ensure more game time
Jon Walters: “I did well for Stoke and they did well for me.” Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
Jon Walters says he is aiming to nail down a regular starting spot again at Burnley after having concluded that his “face didn’t fit,” anymore at Stoke, the club where he had played more than 200 games since joining for just €3 million seven seasons ago.
Playing for Ireland, he suggests, and the faith shown in him, particularly by the current manager, gave him confidence at key times with Martin O’Neill apparently happy to have him start international games even when he was struggling sometimes to retain his place at Stoke.
Extending his international career was not a factor in the move, he insists however, with the decision to accept Sean Dyche’s offer of a fresh start just down to his desire to play as much as he possibly can.
“It got to the point where it was November and I’d played more games for Ireland than for Stoke,” says the 33-year-old, who is training with his new club just outside Dublin this week. “That was on mind, as was the possibility that it was going to be pretty similar at Stoke again this year.
“But things happen, whether your face just fits or not, and it was more than likely [that he would have to move on] from the point that he brought Saido [Berahino] in in January.
“He didn’t do particularly well towards the end of the year; between January and the end of the year but look, he was always going to start the season. So with Bojan [Krkic] coming back, Pete [Crouch] there, Mame [Biram] there and the lads on the wings it was probably going to be a similar scenario where I would not have started the season. I might have worked my way in at some point but now it looks as though I’ll be much more involved.”
Walters says there no guarantees on that front but says he is determined to make his mark at Burnley who have given Stoke more or less what they paid for him back in 2010, something that is likely to go down as a good bit of business given the return the club got from him out on the field.
“To play so much,” he says, “not so much as a striker and finish as [the club’s Premier League] top scorer, at one point with 100 games on the run... we have done well for each other, I did well for Stoke and they did well for me.
Having been something of a slow starter, his success, he says, is down the his hunger and willingness to work hard in order to fulfil his potential, something, he believes, that has given him an important edge over more technically gifted players down the years.
“I think you need luck in certain ways with injuries,” he says, “particularly career-threatening ones touch wood, but you need to plod on.
“When I went to Blackburn first, we had two or three boys in the England planning group, so they were the best players in their year. There were two in my group and one the year below. Two years later they were finished in football after being the best in England at the time.
“A lot of it is mental and having the hunger to keep on going. When you’re doing well, it would be quite easy to sit back and take your foot off the pedal but, as soon as you do, you get a kick up the backside.
That, he says, is one of his key strengths.
“I’ll always be hungry; wanting to improve and looking for the next bit of edge on anyone else. I’ll be like that after I finish.”